Tepper Aviation, Inc. is based at the Bob Sikes Airport in Crestview, Florida. The company has a long association with the CIA. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, it was widely reported to be flying weapons into Angola to arm the UNITA rebels. More recently, it has been linked with the practice of extraordinary rendition.
Tepper appears to have close links with Crestview Aerospace Corporation, as it shares the same address, and Charles R. Shanklin is a director of both companies. Additionally, Tepper director Jack E. Owen was President of Crestview Aerospace until 2001. L-3 Communications agreed to acquire Crestview Aerospace Corporation on 24 May 2006 for $135 million in cash.
Recent destinations for Tepper airplanes
According to flight records, L-100-30, model 382G-30C, c/n 4582, N2189M has visited the CIA's Camp Peary training facility at least twice, in late April and in mid-May 2006. That aircraft also visits the Caribbean: it was seen in Puerto Rico in February 2006, and flew to Barbados in late May of that year. And in February 2006, N8183J flew from Andersen Air Force Base in Guam to Mactan Cebu airport in the Philippines.
According to information previously published by aerospace journalist Keith Stein's ISI Consulting website, in 2002 both aircraft visited the Department of Energy's Desert Rock Airport in Nevada, an airstrip at a disused nuclear weapons testing facility.
The Swiss newspaper Blick has speculated that, given the large number of movements of CIA-linked aircraft in and out of this supposedly disused facility, Desert Rock has been used at some point as a secret prison or black site. It is not known whether Blick's source was Stein's website or if it obtained the information independently.
Allegedly running guns to UNITA for the CIA
The first report of Tepper's involvement in Angola was in early 1989, in the UK Independent newspaper:
- "The CIA has appointed a new airline to ferry weaponry to the US and South African-backed Unita guerrillas fighting the Marxist government in Angola. The CIA's previous airline for this task was forced to close after media revelations. Tepper Aviation, based in Crestview, Florida, operates a Hercules freighter aircraft which, according to former employees, has flown between the Kamina air base in southern Zaire and Unita- held territory in eastern Angola. Tepper was set up in late 1980, after the demise of the CIA's previous carrier, St. Lucia Airways, whose activities, in addition to the Angolan work, included the transport of Colonel North and weapons to Iran... Bud Peddy, who heads Tepper, categorically denies that the Hercules has been in Zaire or Angola.
The categorical denial by Tepper's chief was somewhat undermined by his own death just months later in a Hercules aircraft accident in Angola, as reported by Flight International:
- "The Lockheed L-100 Hercules which crashed while on a US Central Intelligence Agency mission in Angola late last month was owned and operated by Tepper Aviation, a Florida-based company with a history of involvement with CIA operations. Bud Peddy, the head of Tepper Aviation, was piloting the aircraft and was killed in the crash along with, at least two West Germans, a Briton and a second American. The aircraft, painted grey and known as the 'Grey Ghost', came down at night on 27 November as it was coming in to land at Jamba, the main base of the UNITA guerrillas fighting Angola's Marxist Government. The aircraft was carrying a cargo of weapons, plus several guerrillas, as well as the Europeans and Americans.
The plane in question was N9205T. The head of Tepper at the time was in fact named Pharies 'Bud' Petty (both The Independent and Flight International managed to get this wrong). "The Book of Honor" by Ted Gup describes the ill-fated mission in some detail:
- "The lumbering cargo plane that would take him into Angola was to be one of the 'Gray Ghosts,' so named for their slate-colored paint. The plane had four seats in the front -- for a pilot, copilot, navigator, and loadmaster. The fuselage was largely open for cargo. On board that night was a seasoned crew of six. Even by Agency standards, it had a distinctly international flavor. Heading the team was Pharies 'Bud' Petty, a veteran Agency pilot who, at least on paper, presided over a Florida firm called Tepper Aviation, located in Crestview, just off Eglin Air Force Base. The other crew members were all ostensibly employees of Tepper."
Aircraft operated by Tepper
- N1018H - Cessna TR-182, c.n. R18201649 - owned by Tepper
- N2189M - Lockheed L-100-30 c.n. 4582 (registration no longer valid) Lars Olausson's entry for c.n. 4582 in the 25th edition of the "Lockheed Hercules Production List - 1954-2008" (self-published, Såtenäs, Sweden), reads: L-100-30 (Model 382-G-30C), delivered April 1975 - Gabon Air Force TRK-KA, April 1975, same April 1980. Registered TR-KKA by August 1981, same, February 1989. Sold to Pegasus Aviation Finance Company, registered N2189M, 1989, registered to Alaska World Trade Corporation, Anchorage, Alaska, January 1990, same, March 1990. Registered to Flight Cargo Leasing, Dover, Delaware, April 1990, same, September 1990. Leased to Tepper Aviation [from Rapid Air Trans (?), June 1990 (?)]. As of January 1992, marked in overall white w/ a blue line, no markings, blister on top of fwd. fuselage. Flights to Riga and Kiev, February 1992. As Rapid Air Trans, November 1993, same January 1994. To Pegasus Aviation, February 1995, same, May 1997. Carrying Tepper Aviation titles, June 1998. At Basra, May 2004, no titles as of October 2005. N2189M registration passed to JJS&D, LLC, 824 Market Street, Suite 1000, Wilmington, Delaware, 19899-1680, registration date 7 December 2006; reregistered N2731G to JSS&D, January 2007. Operating with no titles, May 2007. N2731G was previously assigned to a York, Pennsylvania-registered Cessna 182B, c.n. 52031, registered June 28, 1996, and delisted as destroyed.
- N8183J - Lockheed L-100-30 c.n. 4796 - Lars Olausson's entry for c.n. 4796 in the 25th edition of the "Lockheed Hercules Production List - 1954-2008" (self-published, Såtenäs, Sweden), reads: L-100-30 (Model 382G-39C), delivered November 1978 and sold to Safair, November 1978. Leased to SCIBE, Zaire, registered 9Q-CBJ, November 1978. Stored at Brussels by October 1988, same January 1989. Registered to Pegasus Aviation as N123GA, January 1989. Registered to Rapid Air Trans as N8183J, February 1989, operated by Aero International. Leased to Tepper Aviation, December 1989?, same, March 1990. As of April 1993, white overall, no titles. Operation for U.S. government, October 1993, same, November 2004. Registration N8183J transferred to Q2P, L.L.C., Wilmington, Delaware, October 2006. Registration changed to N2679C, November 2006, TA on tail, November 2006. Operation by Tepper, March 2007 (Lars Olausson, Production List, 2008, 26th Ed., page 95).
- N9205T - Lockheed L-100 c.n. 4129 (crashed November 27, 1989) Lars Olausson gives this history: L-100 c.n. 4129, (Model 382G-30C) delivered to ZAC-Alexander, registered 9J-RBW, April 1966, sold to Maple Leaf Leasing, 1969, leased to Pacific Western Airlines, line number 383, March 1969, damaged Eureka, Nunavut, August 1969, rebuilt as L-100-20, December 1969. Leased to Alaska International Air, (earlier Interior Airways, later MarkAir), December 1969. Sold to Pacific Western Airlines, registered CF-PWN, 1977, then sold to St. Lucia Airways, registered J6-SLO, May 1985, named "Juicy Lucy", (after a rock and roll band), 1969–1972, transporting cargo for UNITA, July 1987. Sold to Tepper Aviation, Florida, N9205T, January 1988, named "Grey Ghost" - crash landing at Jamba, Angola.
- Although it's not proven, it appears likely that the recently re-registered Lockheed L-100-30 N3867X, c.n. 4684, (Model 382G-35C) is also operated by Tepper. The airframe is registered to T3D&H, L.L.C., 824 Market Street, Suite 1000, Wilmington, Delaware - CIA front companies have been known as "Delaware corporations", as described by former Deputy Director of the CIA, Robert Amory, Jr., due to the lenient incorporation laws of that state. ("The CIA and the Cult of Intelligence", by Victor Marchetti and John D. Marks, Dell Publishing Company, Inc., New York, New York, 1974, chapter 5, page 146, ISBN 44004698175.) The Glomar Explorer was built in a Delaware shipyard.
- N4557C, L-100-30, c.n. 5027, (Model 382G-69C) is widely supposed to be operated by Tepper, given that it is owned by the same shell company as N2189M and N8183J. However, this is also not proven. The Landings database for U.S. civil registrations does not have a record of N4557C. Olausson lists the following registrations for 5027: Lockheed Aircraft Company N4278M, China Air Cargo CAAC B-3002, delivered November 1987, same, July 1991. China Eastern Airlines, September 1991, same, June 1992. Air China, March, 1993, then China Air Cargo, February 1994, (according to Olausson, fish charter to Japan, October 1998). Sold to Safair ZS-JAG, May 1999, operating October 2003 in all white scheme, same December 2003. To Rapid Air Trans (Tepper) N4557C as of January 2004. At Mojave, California, August 2004, January 2007. Registration transferred to Northcap, L.L.C., Wilmington, Delaware, 06-Mar-2007, according to the Landings database. There are four companies operating Hercules that list the same Wilmington address, all with cryptic names. Update: The 2009 edition of the Olausson Production List (April 2008) reports that N4557C was reregistered N3796B, April 2007, (page 107). N3796B has been noted carrying out flight testing of an avionics modification at Mojave Air & Space Port, Mojave, California in November–December 2008, wearing Tepper titles and colours.
Known officers and directors
From the Florida state government's website. Note that Tepper's company records prior to 1996 are not available online. Also note that "Jack Owen" was misspelt on filings before 2001 as "Jack Owens".
|Name||Director||Vice President||President||Registered Agent||Sec/Treas|
|Thomas M. Bledsoe||1996–2000|
|Michael D. Chesser||2005–2006|
|Scott L. Eder||1998–2000|
|John M. Herms||1996–1997|
|Jose L. Hernandez||2006|
|Jayna L. Hill||2001–2006|
|Bruce R. Lehfeldt||1996||1996|
|Jack E. Owen||1996–2006|
|Bobby L. Owens||1996–2005||2006|
|Gracie T. Petty||1997–2006|
|Dale E. Rice||1996–1998||1996–2004|
|Charles R. Shanklin||2001–2006|
- Company records for Tepper Aviation, accessed May 16, 2006.
- Grey, Stephen, "Ghost Plane: The True Story of the CIA Torture Program", St. Martin's Press, New York, 1st ed., October 2006, Library of Congress card number 2006048347, ISBN 0-312-36023-1, page 108.
- Alan George, "Airline 'carrying CIA guns to Unita'", The Independent (UK), February 18, 1989.
- "European rights watchdog probes CIA prisoner flights", ABC News (Australia), November 24, 2005
- Company records for Crestview Aerospace Corp, accessed May 18, 2006.
- Uniform Business Report for Crestview Aerospace Corp (TIF image), February 7, 2001
- Tracking data for N2189M, flightaware.com. Undated, accessed June 5, 2006. Registration req'd to view historical data.
- Desert Rock, Nevada", published by aerospace journalist Keith Stein's ISI Consulting website. Now only available from the Google cache (dated June 11, 2005).
- Henry Habegger and Beat Kraushaar, "CIA-Jets: Stelldichein in Camp Atom", Blick (Switzerland), March 8, 2006. Machine translation by Google.
- "Angolan CIA Hercules air crash kills Tepper Aviation chief", Flight International, December 13, 1989.
- Accident description for N9205T, Aviation Safety Network. Undated, accessed May 18, 2006.
- Ted Gup, "The Book of Honor : Covert Lives and Classified Deaths at the CIA", pages 326-345 (search within the book). ISBN 0-385-49541-2. Gives a detailed account of the crash of N9205T.
- FAA registration database
- Portions of this article were taken from "Tepper Aviation", at SourceWatch, a wikiproject of the Center for Media & Democracy which is licensed under the GFDL. The list of original authors and the article's edit history can be viewed here.
- "CIA resumes Angola covert flights", Flight International, March 21, 1990.
- Alan George, "US weapons boost Angolan rebels", The Guardian (UK), June 25, 1990.
- "USA step up Unita supply", Flight International, June 27, 1990.
- "Tepper Aviation plans US internal cargo services", Flight International, March 4, 1992.
- Richard K. Kolb, "Into the Heart of Darkness. Cold War Africa: Part 2, Angola", VFW Magazine (Veterans of Foreign Wars of United States), May 1999. Via archive.org. Mentions Tepper's role in Angola.
- George Wright, "The Destruction of a Nation: United States Policy Toward Angola Since 1945", page 151. ISBN 0-7453-1029-X. Mentions Tepper's activities in Angola.
- Lars Olausson, "Lockheed Hercules Production List 1954-2009", Volume 26, self-published, Såtenäs, Sweden, April 2008, no ISBN, lists Tepper L-100 operations.
- Peter C. Smith, "Lockheed C-130 Hercules: The World's Favourite Military Transport". ISBN 1-84037-197-8. Publisher: Airlife Pub Ltd, November 2001. Mentions Tepper.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Tepper Aviation.|